The Universal Notebook: Trump’s COVID collapse

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Until he incited a mob of terrorists to attack the U.S. Capitol, Donald Trump’s worst failing as president was his disgraceful performance on the pandemic front. So while the Senate is debating Trump’s impeachment for his role in the deadly riot, let’s review his total COVID-19 collapse.

Trump likes to claim he saved thousands of lives by imposing a travel ban from China, but the restrictions he imposed on Feb. 2, 2020, well after most countries had done so, were not a total ban. Tens of thousands of travelers were allowed into the U.S. through loopholes after the “ban” took effect, including 8,000 Chinese and 27,000 Americans. And Trump left the back door wide open, with the coronavirus coming to New York from Europe, not China.

Trump also takes credit for Operation Warp Speed, the vaccine distribution program that is still struggling to get up to any speed. As it happens, however, Moderna’s vaccine had been designed by Jan. 13, 2020, a week before the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the U.S. It took just two days to develop the vaccine after the Chinese released the genomic sequence of the virus. The delay, costing tens of thousands of American lives, was due to government regulation and incompetence, Trump’s failure to order enough doses, and the complete lack of a plan to distribute the vaccine.

Of course, the Trump administration never really developed a plan to combat the coronavirus at all because Trump didn’t want to admit that thousands of Americans were dying on his watch. So he downplayed the pandemic, politicized wearing face masks, hogged the coronavirus spotlight, held superspreader events, and generally made life worse for those who were sick, those who loved them, and those who were caring for them.

Then, berserk about losing the election, Trump refused to work with the incoming Biden administration to roll out the vaccine program, lied about having a stockpile of vaccine, and never developed a distribution plan because he was too busy trying to steal the election.

It was not until the day before Biden was inaugurated that the U.S. government finally acknowledged the 400,000 COVID-19 dead and the grief of their families. Trump, a thorough-going sociopath, has no use for empathy. He ignored COVID-19 for a year because he thinks caring is a sign of weakness. And that’s why he lost the White House and the Senate. 

Trump was not just a bad president, he is a bad man. Now we have a decent human being as president again. Biden is not afraid to tell the American people the awful truth: The pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better. And most of us won’t be getting vaccinated anytime soon. Maybe come spring. Maybe this summer.

Had Trump been any kind of leader at all, we might have the pandemic in hand by now. In China, where the coronavirus outbreak started, strict lockdowns, universal face masks, suspension of public transportation, and mass testing limited the death toll to 4,800 compared to 429,000 and counting in America.

It’s all but over in China. But thanks to Trump and his anti-American anti-maskers, the coronavirus is raging out of control in the United States.

Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen feature.